As a father, whose son has brown skin, black curly hair, and a Latin name, the events unfolding across this country make me anxious for him and for our country – but it also makes me think of Bob Marshall. Bob was fighting the same battles almost a century ago. Bob Marshall had a vision of public lands, one that saw these public holdings as the perfect manifestation of democracy – public commons that could really be shared by all.

Bob fought hard for that idea. He had a chance to influence equity and diversity during his time inside the United States Forest Service. In writing early Forest Service guidelines for recreation, Bob worked to root out systemic racism within the agency. In the 1930s Bob tried to end segregated Forest Service campgrounds in the south, worked to revoke Forest Service permits for permit holders practicing religious discrimination and proposed programs that would bring residents of urban population centers to their public lands. Bob also battled the powerful for the rights of the working class, a controversial undertaking then, and perhaps now.

We move into the field season upholding not only the Wilderness values that Bob embodied but the stance on equity and inclusion as well. We will clear trails to provide access to all people regardless of their identities, we will engage in education to provide opportunities to grow future stewards, and we will fight injustice in our little corner of the forest – just as Bob would have wanted. Bill Hodge is a renowned leader in advocating for America’s National Wilderness Preservation System, a mentor focused on connecting a new generation to their public lands, and the Executive Director of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation in Hungry Horse, Montana.

Bill has served on the Board of Directors for the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and the Society for Wilderness Stewardship, launched a non-profit wilderness stewardship organization, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS), and is one of the founders of the Wilderness Skills Institute. In 2013, Bill was recognized for his service to wilderness by the United States Forest Service with the Bob Marshall Award and in 2014 he was honored at The White House by the Obama Administration as a Champion of Change for his efforts to create a new generation of conservation leaders.

Bill and his wife Laura live near Bigfork, Montana, and share together their journey to connect community and wild places. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Wilderness Firekeepers | Bill Hodge | TEDxRiverton